#QforK: Future Hall of Famers, Dominance, and the Meaning of a Win

How many of you guys have woken up from Indy?

That’s what I thought.

I’ll keep this intro short, because many of my answers are quite wordy. I’ve been trying to figure out what the fans have been wondering. You see articles everywhere about SparkleHouse, ideas to fix the racing, and other subjects that have been written about over and over again.

So, I decided to do a Questions for Kristen for the first time in a long time. You guys ask, and I answer. Like I said before, I wrote a lot for my responses, but I hope you enjoy!

How would you evaluate Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s rookie season so far? -@Liam_Redford

Stenhouse isn’t doing too bad. I didn’t expect him to go out and win or anything; finish races, learn how to deal with big-league drivers, and deal with a huge amount of publicity. Compared to Danica Patrick, his only competition for Rookie of The Year, they’ve been going back and forth with who finishes higher, which is how the ROTY is decided.

Overall, I give him a B- as of now.

Do you think Matt Kenseth is Hall of Fame worthy? -@JustinKrizel

I have an issue with talking about drivers of today getting into the Hall of Fame. One, because I’ve grown up watching this field of athletes, and it’s like picking my favorite child. There will be a point where, two, three decades down the road, we’ll be talking about this roster of drivers. It’ll be time to announce nominations for the NASCAR Hall of Fame class of 2024, and that generation of fans might not understand the class we chose. They’ll say things like, “Why the Hell is Jeff Burton on the list, his stats aren’t that impressive!”

That’s because they weren’t there to witness the impact of Jeff Burton and his mindset, how he lives up to the title of The Mayor. Sure enough, that will make my face turn red, and I’ll make this exact same argument: “You weren’t there, you have no idea how crucial his presence was in the garage. He was the elder statesmen, the word of reason, THE MAYOR.”

But the main issue is this: none of these guys are done writing their legacy yet. Sure, there are a few shoe-ins right now, like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Chad Knaus, but who knows what a driver will do in a year, five years, ten years? What if Kyle Busch never wins a Cup championship? What if Brad Keselowski goes out and falls off the map? It’s so difficult to factor in the past, present, and future.

With Matt Kenseth, the same issue arises. Yes, he’s won a championship. Yes, he practically caused the creation of The Chase. Yes, he’s rivaling Johnson right now. Is that all grounds to put him into the next possible class? No, but I’m confident he’ll make an even greater impact down the road. He’s too level-headed and intelligent not to.

Because of the potential I see in Kenseth, he will be worthy one day, but not at the present time.

Why is Jimmie Johnson so dominant? Are they cheating, or [are they] just on top of their game? -@KariGillard

There is no doubt that everyone wishes nickels rained down every time this question was asked.

People can’t stand the fact that Johnson is a dominator. He wins without error and flash. The poster boy for perfection, it makes him seem inhuman. That’s why fans are always throwing accusations. “Chad cheated! Jimmie’s nothing without Hendrick equipment! They have to be getting ahead somehow!”

Well, they’re definitely ahead, and it’s true they’ve been caught straddling the line between legal and illegal. But they aren’t pushing the limit each and every week, so that theory is shot. Also, if the Hendrick equipment was driving his success, wouldn’t all drivers with Hendrick engines be contending all the time? Busted that one, too.

I won’t deny that the HMS horsepower does help, but there are other factors, including Knaus, that go into his success. His style, his demeanor, his thought process. Most importantly, it’s his talent. He is the greatest driver of our generation. Nobody (so far) can rival the empire he and that no. 48 team has built. With Knaus, great equipment/team, and a knack for winning flawlessly, it’s hard not to dominate. That’s why Johnson is always winning.

To answer the second question, they were never NOT on top of their game. The team to beat has always been the no. 48 because of what they’ve mindlessly created: fear. Every driver is worried when Johnson shows up in the rear view mirror, and rightfully so. Knaus runs that shop like a well-oiled machine. He’s just like his mentor, Ray Evernham: meticulous, vicious, and victorious.

As I said before, Knaus and minions have done questionable things to the car, but what team hasn’t? Fans notice when they’re under the microscope because they want that team to get spanked by NASCAR.

Johnson won’t stop winning until he retires. It’s time to get over it, haters.

How do NASCAR wins of yesteryear (dirt tracks, small venues, small competition) compare to the ones today? -@Smokey_Bahr

Today, wins mean more, simple as that. The sport isn’t what it was years ago; the rulebook is thick with regulations and means for penalties. Narrowing the gray area kills innovation, making the field more even.

This is how the talent of a driver is heightened. I’ll reference my Johnson response again: his championships mean so much because they were won in an era with more restrictions and watchful eyes.

With equal cars came equal opportunities, and it was only a matter of time until the cream rose to the top, and that it did. Wins also mean more with The Chase, where they add bonus points when the field resets. Literally, the wins have a greater impact. That makes them more significant.

Those wins back then were great, but they didn’t carry as much weigh as they do now.

Do you think Ryan Newman winning [this past weekend’s Brickyard 400] will help his chances of getting a ride next year? -@LovinBayne21

There’s no shock Newman won weeks after going on the Silly Season Express; a special sort of motivation comes with losing a job. It heightens the senses, makes surviving a priority rather than a passing thought. Every move is vital.

While regular people tighten belts and budgets after being shown the way out, racecar drivers go all out. They flex whatever they got. Newman fought, and he proved himself.

It would be twisted to be watching a race and not see him in a car. Daytona 500 winner, and now Brickyard 400 victor, he’s been known for his pole-winning qualifying efforts and a threatening driving style. I think the comments from Kyle Busch (you know, the “Big stupid ogre” and “I’m happy he’s out of a job” ones) lit something inside of him. He could joke and brush it off like it was nothing, but, when someone is “happy” you’re unemployed, you’re fuming.

Busch’s remarks made Newman realize something: when you have no job, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So he went full-throttle, and it landed him in Victory Lane.

Of course it’s going to draw attention from other car owners. It is The Brickyard, you know. I see him finding a home somewhere, it just isn’t clear where yet.
That’s all I got for this week. Thanks for checking in, and let’s get ready for Pocono!


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